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If you’re a developer, there’s apparently a lot to like in Menomonee Falls.
Located northwest of Milwaukee, the village of roughly 38,000 is seeing all kinds of development, including two major corporate projects, numerous single-family subdivisions and multi-family projects, an ongoing mixed-use development and a revitalized retail corridor.
And there is more on the horizon.
Village leaders have taken an active role to work with developers and incentivize projects.
“We believe in a dynamic, vibrant community, and to get there you’ve got to be extremely proactive and motivated to work toward that,” said Mark Fitzgerald, Menomonee Falls village manager.
Fitzgerald points to numerous factors that put the village on the map. The first is geography.
“We’re clearly in the kind of location where you’ve got freeway access, very close proximity to almost all points of the metro area, and that’s a pretty significant (factor),” he said.
He said other key factors include two strong public school systems (Menomonee Falls and Hamilton school districts), a broad spectrum of housing that matches virtually any individual or family’s economic status, a walkable and vibrant downtown, strong health care services, and a growing number of jobs.
“Those are our big drivers, and frankly, we believe fundamentally that makes us a demand market in the Milwaukee metro area,” Fitzgerald said.
Indeed, the village is seeing lots of residential growth.
For the first 10 months of 2020, the village has processed building permits for 90 single-family homes, four duplexes, 90 multi-family units and 16 units of senior independent living, said Matt Carran, village director of community development.
Menomonee Falls makes up a significant share of the residential units being built in the four-county metro area that includes Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties. Through the third quarter, the village accounts for about 9.2% of all new units being built in the region, said Carran, citing U.S. Census building permit survey data. He compared that percentage with the fact that Menomonee Falls accounts for just 2.5% of the region’s total population.
There are more residential projects in the works. Carran said there are 632 single-family homes, 190 units of either one- or two-family condominiums, 245 multi-family units and 477 senior living units that have been proposed but have not yet reached the construction phase.
Hales Corners-based Wimmer Communities has found opportunity to develop two very different types of multi-family projects in the village. Tamarack Springs, being built southeast of Town Hall Road and Custer Lane, will be characterized by its low density (170 units spread across 21 acres), private entries and attached garages.
“That’s meeting the needs of the homeowner-type resident who is looking for that privacy of a home but not a huge amount of maintenance and cost,” said Theresa Bouton, vice president of property management of Wimmer.
Meanwhile, its 170-unit RiverWalk on the Falls project on Main Street, with a planned 45-unit phase two, is far denser. Its proximity to the local shops and restaurants downtown is a primary driver of demand.
“I think people want to be close to restaurants, entertainment, things that are important to them, and you have the ability to do that in downtown Menomonee Falls,” Bouton said.
The village also keeps a close watch on the number of jobs it has, as officials view it as the “first step of economic development,” Fitzgerald said.
He said there are roughly 34,000 jobs in the village. In addition, as many as 5,000 new jobs could be added to the village by the relocation of Leonardo DRS from Milwaukee into a new high-tech industrial building and offices, and the 65-acre multi-purpose campus that Brookfield-based Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. is developing.
Both the $55 million Leonardo DRS project and the $100 million Milwaukee Tool campus are located in the Woodland Prime business park, at Good Hope Road and Flint Drive.
That job growth should create a greater demand for housing in the village, and a growing community creates demand for more commercial development.
“If you look at Milwaukee Tool and Leonardo DRS and the amount of jobs coming in, some of those people are going to be moving to Menomonee Falls with those jobs,” Carran said. “So that picks your residential demand up there, and normally the commercial stuff chases the rooftops.”
Bouton said the village’s revitalization efforts, particularly of its downtown, are a driving force in the demand for new housing.
“It’s driven a lot of employers to move there or expand their businesses and sign long-term leases, which obviously drives demand for housing,” she said. “We’re like any other developer in that we want to suit the needs of the community, and we’re going to go where we feel there’s demand.”
And there is more happening in the Falls beyond the apartments, subdivisions and corporate projects.
Milwaukee-based Cobalt Partners LLC is working on a mixed-use project at the former Ernie von Schledorn dealership site southeast of Main Street and I-41. Construction of a new 33,000-square-foot Ascension Wisconsin health center is underway, while the remainder of the site may be developed for office use.
Fiduciary Real Estate Development Inc., another Milwaukee developer, recently introduced plans to build 120 condo units on 28 acres southeast of Silver Spring Drive and Marcy Road.
Chicago-based HSA Commercial Real Estate is looking to redevelop 10.4 acres at Appleton Avenue and 124th Street in Menomonee Falls for either residential or industrial uses. That’s according to documents filed this fall with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
New retail buildings have gone up along Appleton Avenue south of Menomonee Avenue, including a Burger King, Waukesha State Bank branch and a Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins.
Menomonee Falls has shown it isn’t afraid to dip into its pocket to facilitate some of these projects. The village is providing up to $2.8 million in tax incremental financing for the Cobalt project and $6.4 million for the Leonardo DRS project. It also sold land it owned to Milwaukee Tool for $1, a subsidy in itself, and reached a TIF agreement with the company to return up to 70% of tax increment generated by the campus project annually through 2037.
Fitzgerald said the village’s philosophy on the use of TIF is to “negotiate fully with developers” but strike a deal that’s beneficial to the village.
“I always tell people that if it’s redevelopment, then you almost have to figure out the means to level the playing field to someone that’s just doing something on a greenfield area,” he said.
The village has its eyes set on two main areas for redevelopment. This includes “East Main,” or the portion of Main Street that runs east of Pilgrim Road. Then there is a 10-acre site southeast of Appleton Avenue and Good Hope Road, which includes an aging multi-tenant retail center and a vacant car dealership.
Fitzgerald said East Main needs to “overcome the blighting history” that comes from the freeway, a former retail area that’s now been moved and the nearby Orchard Ridge landfill.
“We’re working on 21st Century land use characteristics in that corridor that can survive in the long term,” he said.
The area around Appleton Avenue and Good Hope Road, meanwhile, stands to benefit from the growth of the nearby Woodland Prime. At a 10-acre site southeast of the intersection, village officials envision a new and dynamic entryway into the village marked by dense mixed-use development. Possible uses include housing, retail and restaurants.
Carran said the site would ideally net a destination restaurant — “something that would draw someone (from) outside of the community.”
Fitzgerald said the site, which is mostly vacant with a small, dated commercial building, likely won’t remain in its current state for long. While he didn’t get into specifics, he said there has been interest in it from developers.
“I think the land is already being tied up, and I think the level of interest is quite high,” he said.